With the rise of social media and Web 2.0, new technologies have paved the way to give the consumer a voice—and a vibrant one to say the least. But who am I to tell you about the power of opinion?

You can probably think of that time you bought that “As seen on TV” miracle product that turns out to be, well, a piece of… junk. I’m sure you just sat there, stared at the mess the company called its product and peacefully shrugged it off, saying to yourself, “Oh well. After all, it’s just money wasted—not a big deal.” Doubtful right?

Social media has created a new world of venting and consumer voice. Product recall—you bet there’s more than one blog post about it. Disappointing customer service? A quick mention of the brand shared with a few thousand followers won’t go unnoticed.

The changing online environment has allowed customers to comment about brands and personal experiences. And that is why it is necessary to perform social media monitoring. One helpful aspect in monitoring is sentiment, or the attitude and tone of a user’s comment, review or mention with respect to the brand.

There are hundreds of sentiment analysis programs available—but most come with a cost. Below is a list of five free sentiment analysis tools and trials that can get you started:

  1. Social Mention—track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the Web’s social media landscape (100+ social media platforms) —all in real time.
  2. Trackur (free trial)—Online reputation and social media monitoring tool to track trends, understand influence, receive alerts and tag sentiment.
  3. Twendz—A Twitter-mining Web application that highlights conversation themes and sentiment of the tweets, as well as pinpointing top influencers minute by minute.
  4. Sentiment.ly (free trial)—Discover relevant conversations, advocates, influencers, and brand opportunities.

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  5. [UPDATED 12/13/12] AlertRank—a free web-based tool that helped to make sense and gauge sentiment of your Google alerts. While this service is no longer available as of July 2012, a similar tool called Meltwater Buzz is available for trial from Meltwater.

Test these free tools today for your brand, client, or industry. What’s being said?